In 2012, in an interview with this newspaper, former President Hifikepunye Pohamba told us in regards to his preferences for the congress that year that, “Hage is my choice…but I am prepared to work with anyone.”
It is this latter part of his comment that is the most poignant and carries the best lesson for all who are attending the SWAPO Party congress this week. It is the language of unity.
We are gravely concerned about Hage Geingob’s comments where he has said, “This is the list of the only people I can work with; I can work with no others.” That is the language of disunity.
What if Geingob’s anointed slate doesn’t make it through the congress voting process – then what?
How does that attitude focus on strengthening the ruling party and drawing on assets and talents from all corners of the party to build a party not just for today’s congress, but tomorrow’s future?
If you announce at the outset that you can only work with this or that specific person, and that scenario doesn’t pan out after elections, then what?
Absolute statements of this kind in situations like these are politically myopic. Shall someone with the skills to actually solve a problem that is hurting the Namibian people, be silenced and shoved aside because they favoured another slate for election at congress? What then, is the priority?
At this moment, we need to accept that Namibia is under severe pressure on many fronts, and real leaders with ideas, plans, mental acuity, and the ability to implement them are needed, regardless of which ‘team’ they support. Regardless of what team or ‘camp’ someone favours, it is SWAPO, as the ruling party, that must emerge stronger, united and re-energised to look to the nation’s huge problems, crises, concerns and worries and bring all talents, energies and skills to bear to find solutions.
Defence Minister, Penda Ya Ndakolo, in a bid to be more catholic than the Pope and hang on to his own position (in the event of a Geingob victory) demanded in public that the State president dismiss ministers who are “undermining his authority” by campaigning against him for SWAPO’s top four positions.
In effect, he was threatening those who exercised their democratic rights within SWAPO to campaign for one of the party offices. As Ya Ndakolo was speaking on behalf of Geingob’s elections campaign, it is an ominous message from on high – toe the line that I set, or else. This is politically immature – it is not unifying.
The fear of anyone having an opposing point of view must be overcome if the ruling party is to rise up, find its feet and handle the problems that are dragging Namibia down.
Campaigning for a leadership post in the party is not undermining anyone; it is building the strength of the ruling party. The party constitution means something important; ignoring it, suppressing it, denying it, selectively using it and promising vendettas against those who operate according to it, weakens SWAPO at a time when the country needs tough, committed, patriotic and informed leadership now more than ever in its 27-year history.
Campaigning is now over; the positions of each candidate should have been made clear to the 776 delegates by now. There is nothing further to be done.
The Central Committee met, and among other steps, they dis-allowed anyone from wearing t-shirts or paraphernalia espousing one particular candidate or another.
No ‘teams’ competing against one another must eclipse the hard work of the congress, but one party, will decide democratically, according to the constitution, who its leadership will be. Again, the focus is on unity.
The message is this: Let the smoke clear, let those who win, take their positions with the full support of the unified party. Let the chips fall where they may.